Saturday, April 25, 2009

John Iain Borb Macleod

John Macleod, the sixth Chief, son of William Cleireach MacLeod. He was known to the islanders by the name of Iain Borb (fierce). He was scarcely ten years old when his father died, and as a clan in those days could not exist without a Chief being able to lead them to battle, a Regent for the minority was always chosen by the clan, and called " Taoitear," or guardian. This office was conferred on John Macleod (a cousin of the Chief), who, from his imbecility and worthlessness, got the name of " Mi-Shealbhach," or " the Unlucky." He held the office of " Taoitear," or guardian, for six years, and during that period the Macleods of Skye and Harris met with many disasters, and were much reduced.

The election of John " Mi-Shealbhach " as guardian was highly displeasing to many of the clan, who wished to confer the dignity on Tormoid Caol, who slew Alastair Carrach Macdonald at the battle of Sligachan. Tormoid Caol seized the Macleod s portion of Glenelg, and disobeyed the Regent. The Lord of the Isles had given a grant of the lands of Uist, Harris, and a great part of Skye to his eldest son, Reginald, by the daughter of Mac- Ruarie of GarmOran, who was set aside to make way for Donald, his eldest son by Margaret Stewart, daughter of Robert III., King of Scotland, and it was in virtue of these grants that the Macdonalds sought to seize the property of the Macleods during the minority of the Chief. They landed in Sleat, and took possession.of the Castles of Dunskavaig and Camus, and drove out the Macleods. A great part of North Uist,,'which pertained to Harris, was wrested from the clan, and a battle was fought at Caolas Uist between the Macleods and Clan Donald, where the Macleods were totally defeated, their leader slain, and their birlinns taken. Iain Mi-Shealbhach shut himself up in the Castle of Pabbay, where he remained during the greater part of his Regency.


Torquil Macleod of the Lewis, then the most powerful of all the Chiefs in the Isles next to Donald, Lord of the Isles, collected his clan and came to the relief of the widow of William Macleod, fifth Chief, who was besieged in the Castle of Dun- vegan by the Macdonalds. Torquil fought the Macdonalds at Feorlig, where he gained a complete victory over them, and after forcing the enemy to take to their boats, he carried off the widow of the late Chief of Macleod and her family to Lews, where they remained until John Borb attained his sixteenth year, when he was installed, at Rodel, as Chief of his clan, when Torquil Macleod put his father's sword into his hand.

The first act of John's Chiefship was to punish Iain Mi- Shealbhach, who was hanged to the yard-arm of a birlinn at Rodel. His property was confiscated, and his family banished for ever. Torquil Caol gave in his submission, and all the refractory chieftains made their peace with John Macleod. He then sailed with a large fleet of galleys to Isla, and by the intercession of his uncle, Maclean of Duart, made friends with Donald, Lord of the Isles, who, in order to secure the aid of the Macleods, obliged the Macdonalds to give up all the lands which had been seized from the Macleods during John's minority, with the exception of the part of Uist next to Harris, which was given to a bastard brother of the Lord of the Isles, who afterwards married the widow of Tormoid Caol Kacleod, a daughter of Maclean of Lochbuy. The island of St Kilda. which belonged to that part of Uist, was, however, given up to Macleod, and remained afterwards an appanage of Harris. John Macleod was the first Chief who fought under the banners of Macdonald, Lord of the Isles, for he commanded all the Macleods, both Siol Tormoid and Siol Torquil, at the bsttle of Garrioch or Harlaw, but, it is said, refused to draw a sword unless he with his clan got the right of the line, which the Lord of the Isles yielded to him. In this engagement John Macleod behaved most gallantly, and received a severe wound in the forehead, which never healed, but used to burst out bleeding whenever he was excited by passion or violent exercise, and which was ultimately the cause of his death.

In the time of John Borb the Macleods of Harris and Lewis joined Donald Balloch, cousin-german of Alexander, Lord of the Isles, when he fought against King James at Lochaber in 1431. They were commanded by Torquil Macleod of Lewis, as John Borb had sent his forces under his Lieutenant, Allan Mackaskill.

John Borb generally resided at the Castle of Pabbay, which he had enlarged and strengthened. He was still in the prime of life, and, being one of the best swordsmen of the day, he used to fence with some of his family for the purpose of pastime, as well as for keeping up his skill. His foster-brother, Somerled MacCombich, was his most usual antagonist, and was rather the better swordsman of the two. The Chief did not by any means like this superiority, and frequently became angry if the other showed more skill than himself. On one of these occasions Somerled did not yield as much as usual, when the Chief flew into a passion, and cut and thrust with the view of something more serious than pastime. MacCombich could not yield with safety to himself, and would rather have died than injure hig Chief and protector, so he threw himself on the Chief, who fell in the struggle, and was kept down by MacCombich, who called to some of the guards to rescue him. John's wound burst out, bleeding with such violence that it could not be stopped. Galleys were despatched for a leech, but before his arrival John had expired. This happened about 1442.
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